In his State Senate campaign against San Mateo Supervisor Mike Nevin, Assemblyman Leland Yee claims to support rent control. His website boasts that he is a “consistent voice for renters,” calls rent control and tenant protections “essential,” and claims that as a San Francisco Supervisor and then a California Assemblymember, he has “opposed efforts to weaken or undermine tenant protections.”

For affordable housing activists like myself, that doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Not only has Leland Yee been on the wrong side of crucial battles to protect affordable housing in the Bay Area, but in some cases he has even led the charge against tenants.

Voters in State Senate District 8 (which includes the west-side of San Francisco) should not be fooled by Leland Yee’s vain effort to reinvent himself, and take a close look at his long track-record against affordable housing before voting in the June primary.

In November 2000, as a San Francisco Supervisor, Yee opposed tenant- friendly measures on the ballot such as Prop H (which cut back on capital-improvement pass-throughs) and Prop N (which would have stopped the rash of Ellis Act evictions.) In 2001, he was one of only 3 Supervisors to vote against Jake McGoldrick’s crucial TIC legislation that allowed thousands of tenants to remain in San Francisco. Around the same time, Leland Yee sponsored legislation to fund $100,000 in free legal services to help landlords evict their tenants.

As a state Assemblyman, Yee’s position on rent control has gone from bad to worse. In 2003, I went to Sacramento with ACORN, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Western Center on Law and Poverty to lobby for AB 1217, Mark Leno’s legislation that exempted residential hotels (SRO’s) from the Ellis Act. We knew that we had a tough battle on our hands – a battle that was only made harder after Yee let his colleagues know that he would oppose it.

As we roamed the hallways of the State Capitol, Assembly staffers questioned us why their members should vote for Leno’s legislation when his own San Francisco colleague wouldn’t even support it. AB 1217 finally passed on the Assembly floor by a 41-vote majority – but only after a conservative Republican switched sides and voted for it. Leland Yee abstained. Even having the Bay Guardian call him out on his lack of support/a wasn’t enough to drop Yee’s knee-jerk allegiance to the real estate lobby.

Housing activists from other parts of the state are incredulous that San Francisco could produce such an anti-tenant legislator like Leland Yee, who is considered by many to be the most anti-rent- control Democrat in the State Assembly. If we aren’t careful, he might get promoted to the State Senate.

(Ed note: Guest Editorials are the opinions of the author and not necessarily the opinions of Beyond Chron. Editorials can be submitted to casey@beyondchron.org)